‘Scream,’ one more time

In December of 1996, Scream premiered in movie theaters across the nation, reviving, rewriting, revamping and making genuinely scary the slasher genre that had long been ignored. The years that followed brought a worthy sequel, as well as slew of copycats which couldn’t compare. On Feb. 4 the third and final chapter in the Scream trilogy, Scream 3, hit theaters. As the trailer says, “in the third part, all bets are off.”

The movie starts in Hollywood with – what else? – a murder. Who gets killed? I won’t spoil that for you, but it’s one of the last people I would have guessed. The murder causes the investigation of Stab 3, the latest sequel to the movie-within-a-movie based on Screams past. That’s where we catch up with Dewey (David Arquette), who’s been working as a technical advisor on the movie, and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette), who’s been brought on by the police to help with the investigation.

As it turns out, the killer left a picture of Sidney’s mother at the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, Sidney (Neve Campbell – our heroine from the first two) is off in the mountains, living in seclusion and hoping not to be stalked by any more deranged assassins. Slowly but surely, the body count starts to escalate as the masked killer starts slaughtering the cast of Stab 3 and Sidney gets drawn out of hiding. Who lives? Who dies? Go see the movie if you want to find out.

Unlike the first two Scream movies, this one was not written by Kevin Williamson. Picking up the reins is Ehren Krueger. While I can’t claim to be a fan of Williamson’s work in general, his work on the Scream movies was exceptional. Krueger falls slightly short of the mark, as the dialogue lacks the pacing and the sharp wit of the other two movies in the trilogy. Luckily for him, the only recurring characters with significant parts are Sidney, Dewey and Gale, all played by actors who know their roles well enough to slip into character.

The Arquettes bring back to the screen the unforgettable characters of Dewey and Gale. They were wonderful in the first two movies and they continue the tradition the third time around. The chemistry between the two of them is as alive as ever, adding just that much more to their performances. Neve Campbell doesn’t have nearly enough time on screen, but when she is there, she captures her character well.

But the new characters in this movie, with the exception of Parker Posey’s Stab star Jennifer Joile, aren’t interesting enough and lack the development to make the audience care much for them. Posey does an amazing job as the snotty actress who portrayed Gale in Stab 3, tag-teaming with Cox and Arquette to fine effect, but the other supporting actors are less distinguished. Television fans will remember Scott Foley of Felicity, who plays the up-and-coming director of Stab 3, and Singled Out’s Jenny McCarthy as an actress in the ill-fated production.

Other knowing cameos include Roger Corman, the king of B-movies, as a studio executive and a pair of stoners familiar to anyone who follows Kevin Smith’s movies. Jamie Kennedy comes back as Randy from the first two movies (yes, he died in Scream 2, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet) and delivers a knockout two minutes that light up the screen.

But what the story lacks in character development it makes up for with many interesting plot twists, many of which bring the story full circle to its beginning. That’s all I am going to say about that because I don’t want to spoil much more.

There’s not much to say about the direction in this movie except that it is superb. Wes Craven is still the master of directing horror that he’s always been. He’s one of the few directors out there who can make a shot frightening as hell while avoiding as many cliches as possible. The camera angles, the cutting, the lighting, the acting: he uses it all to tell the story and to scare the pants off even the most stoic viewer. He fills up every inch of the screen with visuals from crazy angles and keeping everything constantly moving. His action sequences are frightening and fast-paced enough to make up for the often slow-moving story.

When all is said and done and we’ve all “screamed” our last, Scream 3 is an enjoyable and scary movie. While not as good as the first two, it is still fun and fresh, a worthy conclusion to a trilogy which has been a memorable milestone in film’s recent history. I’d like to end the review with a pun but I can’t, so I won’t even take a stab at it. Oh, that was bad. It made me want to …scream?